Embracing the unknown

Anyone who posts for this week’s Alphabe-Thursday knows just how difficult it is to come up with something credible for the letter X. I won’t bore you with the details of my several searches, but I will admit to looking up an X-list for Words with Friends in an attempt to find something useful. That turned out to be dead end, so I decided to check out the X section of our Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary to see what it had to offer. What a wonderful surprise! Not only did I find a word to use for this week’s challenge, I also found its antonym—two for the price of one!

xenophilia (n) – attraction to or admiration of strangers or foreigners or of anything foreign or strange

xenophobia (n) – fear or hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything foreign or strange

The following quote, associated with xenophobia, reminded me that I, like most Americans, am only a few generations away from my own immigrant story.

Remember, remember always that all of us…are descended from immigrants and revolutionists. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

Like so many others of the era, my grandfather (then 9 years old) along with his mother and older half-siblings, transited through New York’s Ellis Island in 1904 en route to join the family patriarch who had immigrated in 1903.

Photograph taken shortly after the family immigrated to the United States.

Ellis Island photo downloaded from morgueFile.com;
scrapbook supplies from Digital Scrapbook Place

Imagine the scene:

  • the press of hundreds of people, all anxious about the future especially since most of them had no idea what that might involve;
  • all thrilled to be on solid ground after the unfamiliarity of an ocean voyage;
  • many weak from the effects of seasickness but, still, determined to look as healthy as possible to avoid being marked for deportation;
  • most unable to speak English;
  • all unable to imagine the journey they still faced (my ancestors had to make their way from Ellis Island to central Montana, half again what they had already traveled)

Despite the difficulties then and in the years to come (my oldest uncle often mentioned the sometimes waterlogged sod hut the family lived in before they could afford a woodframe house), they persevered and thrived. We are a large family—11 children from our grandparent’s generation, 49 grandchildren, and too many great- and great-great-grandchildren for me to keep track of. I’ve never tried to figure this out, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find family members in all 50 states and beyond.

Among the first cousins, we have a doctor, several nurses and teachers, engineers, other professionals, and blue collar workers. Some of us have served in the military and some of us enjoy more “alternative” lifestyles. But when we get together, we all recognize the common bond we share and the older we get, the more we appreciate the sheer grit and guts it took for our ancestors to  leave their homeland to confront an unknowable future in the United States. Xenophile or xenophobe, I doubt any of those brave immigrants would have imagined the impact they and their descendants would have on the United States. I am proud to be one of those descendants.

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10 thoughts on “Embracing the unknown

  1. That is such an xcellent scrapbook page.

    I love how you captured the immensity of immigration in your creation.

    I hope you get to Ellis Island one day.

    The history and emotion seems to fill every inch of the place.

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I really enjoyed your X link.

    A++

  2. Wow – what a wonderful post, Wanda! It really is hard to imagine what it was like to emigrate and immigrate back then, plus it was a much different life then, too. I love it that you are still in contact with your big family. Apparently some of my family emigrated to the US after or during WW II, maybe earlier, but unfortunately the contact died with my grandma. I was too young back then. Now that I am in the US I have thought about it often, but… I cannot find them, despite all the genealogy sites on the web – oh well. Thank you for sharing!

  3. We visited Ellis Island a few years ago, and I kept thinking of all those people going through the process and then making a life for themselves in a strange land..it was a fascinating place!
    Alison xx

  4. Wanda, As usual your posts are wonderful. It opens a door to the past with a very clear view of what the hardships had been like. Makes me realize I was born in the right generation, I wouldn’t made it back then. Thanks for sharing this and part of your history. Take care, Bill

  5. A beautiful page documenting such a huge part of your country’s history and your own family’s. I am full of admiration for those who made these journeys and their courage in surviving and thriving.

  6. I love the personal story that you have told here – definite proof of the incalculable difference immigrants have had on the growth and strength of our country. I hail from the revolutionists – my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War but were of course immigrants as well. Love your scrapbook page.

  7. i absolutely love this page – Ellis Island is somewhere I look forward to visiting one day. When I was a student I worked on a big history research project with the Museum here, going through passenger lists for the ships leaving for America so I have an interest from the other side of the story 🙂

    • Sian, I’m so glad this scrapbook page reminded you of that research project. I’m sure you had your own share of imagining as you went through those lists, just as I imagined the arrival scenario. I hope you do get to Ellis Island one day–your history with its history will make it a special visit indeed.

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